Sri Lanka needs sense of direction in certain key sectors: Top trainer

29 June 2016 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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P. R. Smith’s SOSTAC planning framework has been used globally as a user-friendly planning model in varied industries by academics and professionals of varied spheres.  The programme has been voted in the top 3 business models of all time from across the globe by The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Centenary Poll. 
With the overall aim of extending the usage of best practice in planning by organizations, government officials and individuals, SOSTAC Global Certifications UK will be launching in Sri Lanka the SOSTAC Certification programme on the 1 July.  Sri Lanka is one of the countries in which the initial launch would take place, where the others being UK and Ireland, Cyprus, South Africa and USA (California).
Mirror Business recently interviewed author/trainer Smith about his new programme launch in Sri Lanka, where he shared insights on the key aspects of a planning exercise and why it is relevant and imperative in the local context. Following are excerpts of the interview:

BY Shabiya Ali Ahlam

Q:Tell us about the certification programme?
SOSTAC is a globally-acclaimed and widely used, planning framework. Used by organizations and professionals and even academics, it has reached a stage were more and more professionals across the world are requesting a SOSTAC qualification. We need to make SOSTAC more easily accessible and attainable by anyone who wishes to be competent in his or her knowledge of planning and implementation skills. 


Breaking down what it means; it’s about situation analysis (where are we now?), objectives (where do you want to go?), strategy (how do we get there?), tactics (the details of strategy),action (the details of tactics – excellent execution), and control (how do we know we are getting there? Which means measurement and metrics). Add in the 3Ms – the key resources, Men & Women; Money/Budgets and Minutes (time scales). 

Q: What is unique about it?
You can learn it in four minutes and perfect it in a few weeks! It is easy to use. The programme delivers robust plans using a simple, yet solid, logical structure and can be used at different levels or different types of plans - whether a business plan, a department plan, a product plan, a campaign plan, a project plan. SOSTAC can be integrated throughout an organisation. 

Q: What led to the programme to be launched? What gap, if any, does it aim to fill?
Everyone needs to be able to write a plan. Many of the existing approaches to writing plans are unnecessarily complicated and sometimes incomplete. There is a need for an easy-to-use planning system.


Over the years, I have received numerous requests from people from diverse professions based in different parts of the world asking if they could learn more about SOSTAC. Others asked me if they could get a certificate which would add value to their personal and professional growth. Many plans are over complicated. Other plans are not comprehensive.  The objective of the SOSTAC global certification programme is, firstly, to empower the individual and secondly, the individual will add value to any organization whether it is a family business or a large multinational. 

Q: Why is such a programme relevant to Sri Lanka? What would the country gain from it?
I visited Sri Lanka in March 2015 to host a SOSTAC planning workshop. It was a short stay but I fell in love with the beauty and tranquillity of this splendid island with tremendous potential. I made a quick visit to Galle and was amazed how within the Galle fort people of different faiths and ethnic groups lived in harmony. I met several leading corporate personalities and understood that Sri Lanka needed a sense of direction in some key sectors. 


It is quite natural for a country having come out of a 30- year internal crisis to get carried away and spend enthusiastically without a crystal clear plan.  Part of SOSTAC Planning is the development of the ability to make better decisions, which are based upon excellent information, which is only found, firstly, once you have learned to ask the right questions and secondly, once you know where to go to find the answers. 

Q: What visible benefits do you envision Sri Lanka to gain through this programme? 
We want to create a business culture of better decision making.  Create a culture where businesses save money, time and stress by working from robust, logical and crystal clear plans that make life easier for everyone. We also want to create a ‘constant beta’ (testing) culture which effectively means that organisations keep improving (and learning) all the time. Constant improvement is required in this new hyper competitive marketplace.

Q: How could this programme be accessible to the wider sections of Sri Lanka?
We received several candidates who were keen to be the exclusive affiliate of the SOSTAC certification program in Sri Lanka and in other countries. The Wijeya Media group possessed the best credentials and competencies to help us in delivering the program throughout the country. With the support of local professionals we plan to translate the program content to Sinhalese, which I must say involves a substantial amount of work and planning, but we will do it. The SME’s in Sri Lanka need to take their game to the next level and I am aware that the owners of these SME’s are self-made entrepreneurs. This program would not only help them hone their business planning skills but also connect them with overseas SME’s and corporate personalities who will be on this SOSTAC global forum.   

How well do local entities carry out their planning exercise? What do they get right and what areas require emphasis?

Strategy is often the weakest part of the plan.In fact some plans do not have a crystal clear strategy. They just have a bundle of tactics which they use to develop a retrospective strategy. Yet strategy is the most important section as it gives direction to all the subsequent tactical decisions.  Situation analysis can usually be improved.If you do an in-depth situation analysis (which analyses your customers, competitors, partners, channels, market trends, past performance, strengths & weaknesses in great detail), it will provide the answers for all the subsequent sections of your plan. The key is to know what precisely are the questions you have to answer in this detailed analysis. The ability to ask great questions is a skill we emphasise in SOSTAC Planning. I suggest the Situation Analysis should be approximately half of your whole plan. 

Has the way of carrying out planning in organisation changed over the years, if so how and why?


Well digital has emerged. Companies are trying to plan for digital transition. Meanwhile markets are migrating online, in fact they are integrating offline and online. Plus we now have automated marketing, and soon smartbots and more virtual experiences integrating so plans will have to embrace all of these soon.  Also there seems to be a cyclical increase in placing the customer as the key stakeholder and therefore at the centre of the plan rather than the product being at the centre of the plan.

Q: What plans do you have to contribute towards Sri Lanka’s development process in any specific sector?
The tourism industry is the best example. The diversity of the products which Sri Lanka can offer cannot be matched by many countries in the region. But the single issue that needs to be addressed is the marketing of brand “Sri Lanka” and each of the sub products that constitute the different locations in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is definitely my choice to launch a program such as this as the country can benefit through the learning.  We are in the process of forming a consortium of specialists who could help Sri Lanka take the country’s branding to the next level in Europe, the main premium tourist market. The partners of the consortium are experienced in destination branding, marketing automation and content marketing. We plan to present our credentials to the President and Prime Minister who can then decide whether to give us the opportunity to work with the Tourist Board of Sri Lanka.

We see Sri Lanka’s tourism potential as nothing short of 4 million arrivals per year which is more than double the number currently the brand is attracting.  Let’s see how it goes.

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